Costume & Culture

Armor. Masks. Beads. What do these have in common? They can be worn as part of costumes. You may think of costumes as something you wear on Halloween, but costumes can serve many purposes. The clothing we wear to work, play, impress, or scare can all be considered costume. Let's explore the rich history behind some Balboa Park costumes, taking a journey through time, from 2000 B.C.E. to present. Discover more...

Let's begin with a look at these ancient Egyptian mummy masks, from 2000 B.C.E., at the Museum of Man. These were not intended for life, but rather, the afterlife, to preserve the wearers' looks beyond the grave and to prepare them to meet and be judged by their gods. Discover more...

At the Timken Museum of Art, we can see the great variety of paintings on display, showing off historical dress, from the Roman togas and armor on the French tapestries to the medieval dress of the man in Franz Hals' Portrait of a Man. What was your favorite style of historical dress from the museum? Discover more...

How about we step outside to get some fresh air and take a look at the Spanish-style statues at the Casa Del Prado? These are casts of the statues of Spanish explorers from the 1500s over at the San Diego Museum of Art, and from other locations in the park. Where else can you find statues with similar dress? Discover more...

These ornate puppet costumes from 1684 are from Bunraku, traditional Japanese puppeteering. Did you know that the puppeteers wear special costumes as well? Discover more...

Costumes aren't just to wear for cultural reasons. Here is a suit of antique 1700s Samurai armor, on display at the Museum of Man. Samurai armor was mostly made from leather and small pieces of iron. Would you rely on this to protect yourself? Discover more...

Not only are we covering costume from different time periods, but also from diverse locales! This photo, from the Museum of Photographic Arts, was taken by Samuel Bourne in 1871 and shows people living in the Himalayas. Discover more...

The Mingei International Museum shows beads from all different cultures and time periods, including this awesome hat from Nigeria. This crown and others like it are traditionally worn by leaders in the community to represent their status. Discover more...

Let's spruce up some of this antique dress with badges and ribbons from the Panama-California Exposition, at the San Diego History Center. The Exposition resulted in the extensive landscaping of Balboa Park, establishing it as it is today. Discover more...

This space suit, on display at the Air and Space Museum, was used by astronaut William Anders to train for Apollo 8, a mission to orbit the moon in preparation for Apollo 11, a mission to land on the Moon. Could you imagine wearing this while going through the intense training that he had to go through? I can't. Discover more...

And now, we return to the Museum of Man, to see a very famous costume. Anthony Daniels plays our favorite golden robot in all seven Star Wars films. In the originals, Daniels wore a costume similar to this. But the real question is: is it from the recent past...or the future? Or long ago? You decide! Discover more...

Although our tour through time has ended, who knows what the future brings? And what the costume of the future will be? Thanks for spending a bit of your time with us today, and feel free to spend some more in the future.